Is this The Queue?


For the 125th time tennis fans join the world’s top tennis players at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, London, to witness the world’s most prestigious grass tennis tournament. Not only is Wimbledon a major sports event for tennis fans from all over the planet (go Federer!!), it is also a social and cultural bonanza telling us lots about the Brits.

Let’s take queuing for example. Enter a British Post Office or use a cash point in the UK and you will be certain to encounter a rather well known British phenomenon of patiently waiting for one’s turn. George Mikes’s famous declaration that ‘an Englishman, even if he is alone, forms an orderly queue of one’ is not that much of an exaggeration. Wherever there are more than two individuals waiting in Britain, you can expect a tidy and well mannered human queue rather than that confusing and elbow-prone crowd so common in Central Europe. The ‘queue-jumper’ is an utterly despised individual in the UK, and most likely to be firmly pointed to the end of the queue. According to an article in The Independent’s i, average Britons spend an impressive 5 months 2 weeks and 2 days of their lifetime queuing. Phil Woolas’ suggestion to include the ‘art of queuing’ on the British citizenship test doesn’t seem that farfetched anymore, does it? (Read more in the online edition of i:

Never are UK queues minor matters, and rather than an incidental means of getting inside a sports ground, The Queue at Wimbledon is a big deal. Enormous but incredibly well organised, The Queue definitely deserves its official Wimbledon upper case spelling. The official Wimbledon Guide to Queuing explains that Wimbledon is one of the last major UK sporting events operating a ticket queue on match days.

The Guide advises to join the ‘substantial queue (…) several hours before the Grounds open’. And if you want to get into Centre Court, you’d better stay overnight. No joke – plenty of tennis fans spend over 50 hours in The Queue to see their favourite tennis player on the grounds.

Ah, yeah, and I’m sorry but there is no fiddling with The Wimbledon Queue. The Queue Code of Conduct unmistakably points out (in caps, to avoid any misunderstanding) that ‘QUEUE JUMPING IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND WILL NOT BE TOLERATED’. Stern regulations are in place: Every single Wimbledon goer is supposed to queue for their own ticket only, and you’ve got to pick up a specially issued ‘Queue Card’ stating your position to officially join The Queue. However, if you are ready to join The Queue, you’ll be honoured with a sticker to publicly testify that you queued for Wimbledon.

Lesson idea:

Why not explore the peculiar issue of queuing with your students, and take Wimbledon as a first hand example? It’s a great topic to work on expressing permission, obligations and advice!

Ask your students if they know what a queue is. Do they know any other words for queue (ie. line in American English)? You might like to pre-teach some useful expressions such as: queue-jumping, to queue up, join a queue, etc.

You can find a definition in the Macmillan English Dictionary:

Where do people usually queue? (airport, supermarket, cash point, post office, etc.) Show your students a couple of pictures of this year’s Wimbledon queue, similar to the ones below. The pictures were taken on Wednesday, 22 June 2011, between around 5.30 and 7am. At 7am around 3000 people were queuing.

Is this a queue? How long do you think these people have been queuing for?

What do your students see in the pictures? Would they want to join this enormous queue? What do they think these people are queuing for? Does the queue look very organised?

Ask your students to find out about the Wimbledon queue regulations, and to write down some rules, e.g. You must not leave your belongings unattended/It is advisable to stay overnight/You must keep your queue card. You might like to draw a table on the board and write the rules in three different columns: You must not / You may / You have to; or Prohibitions / Advice / Obligations.

Ask your students if they think queuing is different in their country. Do they know any queues with a similar amount of rules? Do they like queuing? Are they queue-jumpers/annoyed by queue-jumpers?

As a warmer, you might want to use some activities to practise talking about permission, obligations and recommendations. You can find lots of relevant Language Exercises and Grammar Reference Units on MEC. Just type “obligation” into the Word and Phrase search, and MEC will come up with a list of activities. If you’d like to keep it sport related, try ‘The rules of football’.



  • Special thanks to a very generous Wimbledon ‘queuer’ for taking queue pictures especially for this blog posting at a ridiculous time in the morning! Thank you, Ben!

    Posted by Eva Maria Schmidt on June 29th 2011

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